Off-roading is a sport – a form of art – where the vehicle’s capability is put to the ultimate test and it becomes a canvas splattered with mud, twigs for extra decoration and if you are really serious, a creative Picasso scratch.
If you think the debate of which rugby team is the best in South Africa is a never-ending rigmarole, try listening to a 4x4 fundi or ten about which vehicle can do what and climb out of where.
That debate will make the rugby one look like a kindergarten scene of “Teacher, Johnnie stole my milk!”
They’ll humbly brag about their favourite steeds, YouTube videos of performance will feature on screens and hear you’ll multiple stories, personal encounters, about something that happened some time ago.
Recently, I embarked on an off-road adventure through an obstacle course in Magoebaskloof’s beautiful George’s Valley with a Chevrolet Trailblazer 2.8D LTZ 4x4 AT.
All big words for someone not familiar with cars, but to break it down…
The spacious Chevrolet Trailblazer comes kitted out with a touchscreen infotainment system, safety systems and has an average fuel consumption of about 9.5L/100 km. The vehicle has a 2.8 litre, incline four, turbocharged diesel engine, a 6-speed auto transmission, and massively impressive torque of 500 NM.
To break it even a little more down…
It moves like machine!
After a quick briefing – which could be summed up in six words, “brown is the colour of adventure” – off we went to blaze a trail.
Through multiple obstacles I watched and observed the 4x4 enthusiasts, the advice went from one radio the next and safety was key when we conquered the slippery muddy tracks and water crossings. Even non-experienced 4x4 drivers could blaze through forests and cruise over tricky terrain thanks to the click of a button with the Trailblazer’s low-range transmission setting.
One, two, three, click: as easy as pie, mud pie.
Here are a few basic tips (perhaps newbie tips) to keep in mind when you are going off-road; some of these tips may even come in handy when driving with a low clearance non-4x4 vehicle over tricky terrain. It is not about the car, it is about the driver…
Tips to Trailblaze your way into an off-road adventure
Go back to school
If you don’t feel comfortable driving a 4x4 over off-road terrain consider doing a course and learn from some experts. Nothing beats knowledge.
Join a club or grab a friend
Do you remember the movie (and true story), 127 hours? Fun? No. Always tell someone where you are going or even better, go with a friend or join a club.
Pack a few basics
It goes without saying that something like a first-aid kit, water and navigational aids should always be on hand. Also remember to have some recovery gear with you such as a tow strap, a jack and a spare tire.
As slow as possible as fast as necessary
Go as slow as possible and as fast as necessary; observe your surroundings to make well-informed decisions when it comes to your next move.
Rule of thumb
Don’t hold your thumbs on the inside of the steering wheel. Why? If your front wheels get stuck on something, there is always that risk of turning your thumbs in a different direction if you can’t hold the steering wheel. Rule of thumb, keep ‘em on the steering wheel.
If you are going over sand, rocky terrain or blazing at 120km/h, adjust your tyres accordingly. Also pay attention to your fuel consumption and the other measurement devices on your vehicle.
Get out, have a look
If you don’t know how to get over or through an obstacle, get out of your vehicle and walk to the obstacle.
Know your clearance
You need to have a mental picture of how much space there is under your bumpers (front and back) and the center of your vehicle to get over big or tall obstacles.
Wear comfortable clothing.
Most 4x4 vehicles are quite high if you just tad over 1.5 meters and getting in and out can lead to interesting occurrences, for example, ripping your pants. Lesson learnt.
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